Friday, December 31, 2010

Runathon Week 4

This week I started having pain in my left heel. This is never a good sign, and I really don't want to come down with plantar fasciitis. So on the days my heel really hurt I rolled it and iced it, and then reduced the run volume this week. I also ran mostly dirt trails. Normally I would take time off from running, but I figured I would slowly step down the volume and see if I could hang on to the Runathon.

Sun, 12/19 - Did a square route run with Zac. Ft. Lowell, Fennimore, TV, Soldier Trail. 3.27 miles.

Mon, 12/20 - Very slow run, because I was super tired. Basically tried to run as slow as possible to fake a rest day. 2.50 miles.

Tues, 12/21 - Tried some new trails right by the Clements rec center with Ryan The Boulder. All sorts of cool XC trails out there, and even a nature trail with a gravel path. We kept flushing out the coyotes. 3.66 miles.

Wed, 12/22 - Phoneline trail run in Sabino Canyon with Ryan The Boulder. 5.21 miles.

Thurs, 12/23 - Super easy run around the paved loop at Clements with Ryan The Boulder. 2.80 miles.

Fri, 12/24 - Tried a new trail that goes right behind Leslie's house, but it petered out. 2.59 miles.

Sat, 12/25 - Easy run up the Ft. Lowell trail on Xmas morning. 2.52 miles.

Total Week 4 miles = 22.55 miles
Total Runathon to date = 89.25 miles

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Runathon Week 3

So I felt bad about doing just barely above the minimum required 2 miles per day for most of Week 2. So this week the pendulum swung the other way and I went a bit overboard. Part of it was trying to find new routes to run to keep it interesting and mix it up a bit.

Sun, 12/12 - Somehow I convinced Zac to go with me and do our normal running route of running up Ft. Lowell to the traihead, then the spare parking lot, and back home. We did have a terrific sunset, which caused us to break into song. If anyone in the neighborhood was wondering who was singing Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," it was us. 4.60 miles.

Mon, 12/13 - Easy, bare minimum run. This one was to Leslie's house and back at 5:30 in the morning. I've run past her house a lot this month. Thankfully she has bright lights out front. Her neighbors seem to like to be stealthy and dark. Only a few Christmas lights on the street to keep me entertained. 2.55 miles.

Tues, 12/14 - I met up with Ryan The Boulder and we did our usual morning run route of running along the Irvington utility trail to the Fantasy Island fenceline trail and back. Both of us were spotting our brand new headlamps. Do not look directly into the beam! We also discovered a new V-gate to the north entrance to Fantasy Island. Unfortunatley it is constructed out of barbed wire and not smooth wire, so we had to be extra careful going through the gate. 5.10 miles.

Wed, 12/15 - This was my crazy "Let's mix it up" run. Ryan The Boulder and I met up at 5:30 AM and ran the first part of the Saguaro East paved loop to the north Cactus Forest Trailhead. We then ran the Cactus Forest Trail through the middle of the paved loop, and then the extra 1.5 miles that takes you back to Old Spanish Trail. It was cold and dark, and I had a spectacular trip, which I saved before hitting the ground or plowing into cactus. We also saw some sort of bushy tailed animal by the trail, and our guess was that it was a stray dog. Anyways, this was my trail run for the week. 8.02 miles!

Thurs, 12/16 - After two longer runs in a row, I was determined to keep today's run low-mileage. Ryan The Boulder and I just did 40 min up the Irvington utility trail, then back. 3.26 miles.

Fri, 12/17 - Waited for the sun to come up, then Zac and I ran up Soldier trail and around Agua Caliente Park before heading back home. Knees and legs were still tired. 3.98 miles.

Sat, 12/18 - Easy solo run up the Ft. Lowell trail to Melpomene and back. I saw an odd sight on my run. A guy was "walking" 4 dogs. Except he was riding a quad and had attached a bar to the front with 4 eyelets where the leashes attached. So as he drove the quad the dogs ran in front with their leashes attached to the bar. I have no idea how they executed turns. 2.52 miles.

Total Week 3 miles = 30.03 miles
Total Runathon miles to date = 66.7 miles

Week 3 means we are over the half way point in the runathon. But I have to give 5 updates in December, and when you're running everyday it makes the month seem really long. Looking at my mileage, if I keep running at the same rate I should have no problem passing 100 running miles for the month, and may even reach 120. We shall see!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Runathon Week 2

By Week 2, the gung ho-ness of "Oh boy this will be a challenge!" wears off. Now the body is saying "Why are we running AGAIN? We ran yesterday. Today should be a rest day." But today is not a rest day. Nor is tomorrow. Or the next day.

Here's Week 2:
Sun, 12/5 - Neighborhood run the day after Dawn 2 Dusk. So far the most painful run of the runathon. 3.44 miles.
Mon, 12/6 - Morning run where I did the absolute minimum. 2.5 miles.
Tues, 12/7 - Another "just get it done run." 2.54 miles.
Wed, 12/8 - Evening run. Normally I run in the mornings, and it's because I get it done and have less of a chance to procrastinate. Not much over the minimum with this one. 3.14 miles.
Thurs, 12/9 - Back to the morning. 3.93 miles.
Fri, 12/10 - Didn't want to go crazy the day before the mud run. 2.51 miles.
Sat, 12/11 - Cat Mountain Mud Run 5K with Zac and Ryan The Boulder. This was out at Starr Pass, and all on trails. So it was my trail run for the week! 3.10 miles.

Total Week 2 miles = 21.16 miles

There were a lot of runs just over the minimum required 2 miles. But even with low miles each day, I still came out of the week with over 20 miles. I think I may break 100 miles this month.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Runathon Week 1

For those of us doing the Runathon, we are doing our weekly reports on Saturdays, since December ends on a Friday. I need to get my Week 1 report posted before it's Week 2!

Here's how the runs went:

Wed, 12/1 - Easy neighborhood run. 2.90 miles.
Thurs, 12/2 - Ran up Old Spanish Trail from the church to Freeman and back with The Boulder. 5.35 miles.
Fri, 12/3 - Ran the Pemberton Trail in the Fountain Hills area with Zac. Trail run for the week! 4.75 miles.
Sat, 12/4 - Got up early and ran before the Dawn to Dusk mountain bike race. I learned from last year to get this run done BEFORE the race, as I wouldn't feel like it after. 2.51 miles.

Total Week 1 miles = 15.51 miles

So far so good!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My December Runathon Experiment

Each year the Tucson Tri Girls hold the December Runathon. For each day in December, participants are to run a minimum of 2 miles. Now 2 miles sounds like nothing, but when you're doing it everday in addition to your other runs and bike rides, it can become difficult to schedule sometimes. I did this challenge back in 2008 and successfully completed it. Since I have no training plan that I'm married to this year, I decided to do the December Runathon again this year.

Last time I set some goals, so I think I'll do that again for this year.

2010 December Runathon Goals:
  1. Run everyday in December, a minimum of 2 miles each run. The most important goal!
  2. Do a trail run at least once a week. Gotta mix it up and hit the trails in addition to the roads.
  3. Egg Nog Jog 5K faster than 2008's. Beat last year's time of 26:19 (8:25 min/mile average).
  4. Run to the summit of Agua Caliente Hill and back. The trailhead to this hill is 2 miles from my house. I can see the summit right now out my office window as I type this. But I've never reached the summit. This year I'm going to do it as a long run and get to the top where the summit marker is (9.25 miles round trip).

Back when I did the 2008 December Runathon, I did the Egg Nog Jog 5K on 1/1/2009 and ran my fastest 5K ever. I figured it was because of the Runathon. Or was it? The only way to find out is to do an experiment. This year I plan to do a 5K time trial before and after the December Runathon to see what happens. For my pre-Runathon time trial, I chose the Gladden Farms 10K race, which I did this morning. Both this race and the Egg Nog Jog are in the Marana area, and are similar in terms of hills. Shari and I ran the 10K this morning, and I pushed it on the first 5K to get my TT time, then cruised for the second 5K to wrap up the race.

Pre-Runathon 5K time = 27:08 (8:45 min/mile average)

So now it is saved in the blog. We'll see what happens in a month! I'll try to keep updating my blog on a regular basis with how the Runathon (and other workouts) are going.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

El Snack Tour de Tucson

I had kind of been waffling about doing El Tour de Tucson. I've ridden it in the past for bike patrol, which is a whole other type of riding. Lots of stopping, lots of working on bikes, and overall being out on the course until the sun goes down. As bike patrol, I would always ride my commuter cyclocross bike with the trunk on the back, so that I could carry all the tools and supplies needed. And in the past I never really considered riding the tour as a rider since my bike choices were either my cyclocross bike (which is heavier in commuter trim) or one of my mountain bikes. The tri bike was out due to the aero bars. But this year I finally pulled the trigger and got a real bonafide road bike, so the thought of the tour entered my head about 2 weeks before the race.

Now I am not trained for the tour, but wanted to start getting back into doing longer rides. The 66 mile distance was perfect. Long enough for a challenge and to get a good ride in, but not too long to turn me into roadkill. I posted that I was thinking about doing the 66 mile event on Facebook, and Liane chimed in and asked what speed I was planning to ride. Speed? I was planning on an easy ride at a pace that would ensure I would be able to walk the next day. But because I signed up a week before the race, I paid a lot more in entry fees. So to make up for it, I planned to partake of as many snacks on the course as possible. In triathlon you get used to having to carry everything with you for surviving an entire day of racing. You can't leave the course if you forget your snacks, or have someone hand you snacks over the fence. But in El Tour, there are a ton of snacks provided. And if there wasn't something that I wanted there would be Circle K's along the way. Thus El Snack Tour de Tucson was born.

Liane met me at my house and we rode the 7.4 miles to Udall park for the start. We met up with Tri Girl Rose and hung out until the ride began. Then we were off on our snack tour. Liane and I chatted the entire way, because you can't be on a snack tour and not be chatty and social. Our first stop was the Sabino Creek crossing. It took some time to cross the creek, but I didn't mind as our first snack stop was right after the wash. I snagged 2 cookies while Liane opted for a banana. I only went with 2 cookies, because you have to pace your snacking in the El Snack Tour. Go out too fast on the snacking, and you won't have any room for future snacks. If they are good snacks you will be mad you screwed up your snack pacing.

The next aid station we skipped, because the sign out front said "Water and Bathrooms." We didn't need either of those. So we continued on up Sunrise, then over to Oracle. By this point I did need water, so we pulled into the aid station at Catalina State Park. I refilled my water bottles, and took a look at the snacks. Hmmm...only fruit. A very poor showing of snacks. I took a few bites of watermelon, then we were off. The wind was now very noticeable as we rolled through the Rancho Vistoso area, and Liane mentioned pretzels would be good right about now. I agreed, as we were reaching the point in the ride where carbs and salt would taste good. We pulled into the next aid station and they had kids out front with trays that had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Oh my gosh were those good! Liane and I both took 2 small sandwiches. It was time to go back out into the wind, but I was much happier after my PB&J.

I told Liane that I remembered a few years back there was an aid station around that area that had Girl Scout cookies, and if they were there this year we HAD to stop. I was not passing up Girl Scout cookies. Our conversation then turned to our favorite Girl Scout cookie flavors and how evil they are and how easy it is to eat an entire box. We almost missed the next station but at the last minute spotted the Girl Scout flag. We quickly pulled into the pit stop and I grabbed a peanut butter chocolate cookie and a caramel shortbread. No samoas or thin mints. Darn it! But PB would have to do. This wasn't too far after our PB&J stop, so I only took 2 cookies.

Back out on the road and the wind. We skipped the next aid, because we could see from the road they only had fruit. We were getting good at spying the snacks from the road and just doing a drive-by without having to stop. If it was just fruit, we kept going. On Tangerine we drafted behind a big guy, and for those few minutes we looked like we were actually in a bike race. That is, until the next aid station appeared. This aid station was off the road just before the train tracks and where we would have to cross under I-10. The aid station was packed with people, and I could only see one little tent. It wasn't looking good. We went into drive-by mode and almost didn't stop until at the last minute we saw the most awesome sight ever: the Eegee's truck. We both yelled "Eegee's!" and pulled in and dropped our bikes. They had lemon, strawberry, and pina colada eegee's in plastic cups, already served up so you just grabbed your cup and go. We stood around and ate our eegee's, which tasted wonderful. No wonder so many people were stopped there!

After the eegee's break it was back onto the roads, and the crappy road section out by Picture Rocks. It's like Euclid road only longer. We knew there was a hill to climb, but there would be an aid station after the downhill. At this point we REALLY wanted pretzels. Pretzels would have complimented my eegee's quite well. We jammed up the hill, coasted down the other side, and pulled in to another aid sation that only offered fruit. Grrr! No pretzels. I ate some of the contingency snacks that I had brought along and took a slice of watermelon.

The lack of pretzels was affecting our mental state as we cranked along the Frontage road. Dust was blowing across the road and we were getting sandblasted. We were leap frogging with Tri Girl Marlene, who was doing the 109 mile distance. Liane and I dropped back again to do a drive-by of the next aid, which just had fruit. Again with the fruit! Things were looking bad. We were also tired of sitting on our bikes. Thankfully the last aid station saved us. We pulled into a parking lot, dropped our bikes, and were greeted with chocolate brownies, chocolate chip pumpkin bread, and pretzels! I was on snack sensory overload. I grabbed a brownie and started chowing that down while grabbing a slice of pumpkin bread and shoving pretzels in my jersey pocket. It was absoloutely wonderful. We seriously considered staying there for awhile and calling Liane's husband Nate to tell him that the finish line had moved and it was now located in this parking lot where the brownies were.

I was perfectly content to stay with the brownies, but Liane said we had to go and actually finish the ride so we got back on the bikes to finish the last 5.5 miles. I had packed enough pretzels in my pocket to be able to eat a pretzel each remaining mile. Liane was surviving on Tootsie rolls. The last few miles of a ride are always the longest, so the pretzels at least gave me something to enjoy. We rode to the finish downtown, crossed the timing mat, and found Nate. Liane and I then had to find the real food. I was prepared because I knew you had to buy the good stuff. The free stuff included bagels and more dreaded fruit. We got our medals then made our way to the food court where we scarfed down pizza and sodas. Both tasted wonderful and were the perfect ending to our El Snack Tour de Tucson.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fall Foliage Ride

Last weekend, Zac and I headed up Mt. Lemmon to do some riding in the fall leaves. We rode the 1918 trail, and took quite a few pics. We then continued on to the Sunset trail, where I had a minor mishap that tweaked my shoulder. My shoulder still hasn't healed from my fall during the run a few weeks ago. Hiking with the bike and riding down drops just aggrivated it, so I think I will be stuck riding the road bike for the next few weeks until it heals.

Who says you can't see fall color in Tucson? This is a 30 minute drive from our house.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

XTERRA World Championships Race Report

I feel that if you have the opportunity to race in the biggest race of your sport, you should do so. When I roadraced motorcycles, I qualified for the Race of Champions my amateur year. It meant driving from our home in Tucson, AZ to Daytona Beach, but it was an awesome time. From XTERRA Saipan in March I got a qualifying slot to the XTERRA World Championships in Maui, which weren't held until this past weekend. So that meant continuing on with training so that I could attend this huge race. This would mean I went through 1 full year of triathlon training, by far my longest stretch.

XTERRA is a very cool group of people. At the World Championships, everyone is glad you are there, and everyone is there to have fun. No one really cares what you are ranked, how you got there, or how fast you are. It is the last XTERRA tri of the season, and something to enjoy. I went into this race with a very different mindset. Let's face it, I wasn't going to win the World Championships. Neither were 548 other people there. I was in a beautiful place, and there to celebrate and enjoy the culmination of an entire season. This was, after all, my 5th XTERRA race of the year.

Race morning I got to transition early, and by early I mean 7 AM. The race didn't start until 9 AM. I love this about XTERRA. No getting up in the dark to eat breakfast to be ready to hit the water for a 7 AM start. I think this is the mountain bike influence on the race, since many were partying the night before. I set up my area, and headed to bodymarking where I was stamped with the official number stamps. I love the big races that have the number stamps, and not some kid scrawling your race number on with a sharpie. Once I had my area set up I wandered around, checking out the race. There were TV crews everywhere. They had retrofitted golf carts with camera gear, had cameras on stands on the beach, had camera divers deployed in the water, cameras on boats, cameras on the helicopter flying overhead, and cameras just about everywhere else. It was like a Universal Studios sound stage. I had to make do with my Android phone and point and shoot camera. I handed the phone over to Zac for the day, so that he could keep friends and family updated at home on facebook.

While waiting, I wandered over to the race announcer's station. There were 3 announcers covering the race, and I wanted to talk to one announcer in particular. I don't know her name, but she's the woman announcer with short, black, spiky hair. She had done the announcing for XTERRA nationals, and the western regional cup race. I went up and thanked her and told her that I wasn't a fast racer, and really appreciated that she was there at the finish line announcing all the way up to the last racer crossing the finish line. Many races break down the finish line before people have finished racing, and many are left with a sad ghost town of what used to be the finish area. But XTERRA keeps the finish line open until the last racer has finished, and this announcer stays and announces their name, even if the only people hearing the announcing are the family at the finish line and the race workers and volunteers.

At 8:30 AM the opening ceremonies started on the beach, with Reverend Alalani Hill leading the traditional Hawaiian blessing ceremony. The XTERRA racers joined together in a giant circle with arms around each other while she spoke. She is an amazing speaker, and as we stood together with our arms around complete strangers from different countries, many were moved to tears with her words. The gentleman who was standing next to me in the huddle was sniffling, so I patted his shoulder. At the conclusion, we all lined up on the beach and Rev. Hill brushed each racer with tree leaves. As I passed by I touched her arm to say thanks for her kind wishes and felt an extra bush of tree leaves across the back of my neck.

At 9 AM the starting cannon went off and everyone ran into the water. I let the majority of the mass go ahead and walked in until about knee deep and started swimming. Thankfully the seas were calm that day. All of my practice swims in the ocean were in preparation for this day. The sun was out and there were a few small clouds in the sky. As I swam I could see a few small fish and coral below us. I still ended up in the mass of people, and tried to draft where I could and moved around the crooked swimmers where I could. The week before the race I had fallen in a running race, causing roadrash on my right side and injuring my shoulder. I could tell the shoulder was still tight when I swam, but it loosened up about halfway through the first lap. I was smacked in the back of the head once, and had my hands brush a few racers, but other than that it wasn't too bad. After the first buoy we had to make a 90 degree turn, which is where most of the contact happened. At this point I was also a bit freaked out for a second at what I saw below. At first I thought it was a giant orange fish, but on a second look it turned out to be a diver zooming around underwater holding on to an orange propulsion system.

I came out of the water on my first lap and saw 16 minutes and change. Not bad for my first lap! We had a short run on the beach, then headed back in for the second lap. The second lap had much less density of people, and I thought it was cool that I was swimming up with people that were wearing speed suits. By the middle of the second lap I was done with being in the ocean and wanted to get out. The only way out was to keep swimming. I resisted pulling up and breaststroking and forced my head down in freestyle. I finally touched the beach and stood up and made my way to transition. 34 minutes for the swim, and I was happy with that.

I got to transition and spent my time getting the sand off my feet. Usually I fly through transition in 1-2 minutes, but I figured it was more important to get the sand and grass off my feet before stuffing them in my shoes. I also wanted to get my gloves on to protect the roadrash on my right palm. While in transition I could hear the announcer talking about some of the racers. The Japanese racers were gathering at one end of the transition area, waiting for each other so that they could go out on the bike course together. I thought that was really cool. I grabbed my bike and ran up the hill, and gave the volunteer a high five as I ran. Rev. Hill was right behind him with her tree leaves, and yelled "Keep it going!" so I gave her a high five as well. At the top of the hill we were allowed to mount our bikes, and the bike course began.

We only had a short section of road before getting on a dirt road, then riding over to Makena ranch. The entire bike course is on private property, and no one is allowed to ride it until race day. Without a pre-ride, myself and a couple hundred other racers would have to figure out the course as we rode. All I knew was the shape of the course from the map, which was no help, and the snippets of video I had seen on XTERRA.TV of people crashing on the downhill. The course was on the west end of the island, which was very dry and had not received much rain. The trails were covered with rocks and a layer of fluffy loam. But unlike the jungles of Saipan, I was experienced in riding over loose rocks.

The first part of the course was mostly doubletrack, and a ton of uphills. On the first few hills, people were jumping off and walking. But not me. I was bound and determined to ride as many uphills as I could. I cleaned the first few, then got into a few where I only had to walk a few steps at the top after I had spun out in the loose dirt. Then we came to the first downhill. The trail was not very well traveled, and was covered in lava rock scree. I passed a girl from Japan who was riding with a guy. Just as I was looking for a way around him, he crashed, and I had no where to go but off to the side. I had a small tip over trying to avoid him, but got back on and continued down the hill. I kept the weight over the back, stayed off the front brake, and lightly guided the front end down until I was safely at the bottom. That would be the only downhill for quite awhile.

Somewhere on the course is a hill called "Heartbreak Hill," but I honestly can't tell you which one because they all look the same and there are a billion of them. We would climb a rocky hill, then the course would level out for a short bit, and then climb another rocky hill. The only good thing was that I wasn't by myself and there were still plenty of riders around me. So I would climb, and then get off when I couldn't climb anymore. The gumption that I had on the early hills to cleam the climbs was slowly waning. I started to look to the ocean to take in the view, but I was absoloutely covered in sweat and frying in the heat. It was 95 degrees and humid, and I had never drank so much on a course in my life. My shorts and Camelbak were encrusted with salt. We had 3 aid stations on the bike course, and I made it to the first one with half a Camelbak and an empty water bottle. I threw my bottle away and got a fresh water bottle and continued on.

More climbing. My legs were now killing me and it was getting harder and harder to turn over the pedals. I talked with the riders around me. One guy was named Jerry, and he had taken the time to put on leg armor in transition for the long downhill. I was now sighing and groaning on the climbs, and was running out of gas. My Snicker bars weren't even helping at this point. I stayed in my little group of riders until at the top of a climb, where the course made a sharp turn. The downhill! Jerry stopped to put on elbow guards, and the guy in front of me was hesatant to start the downhill. I threw my bike gears out of the well-oiled Granny gear, and started the awesome downhill. The guys behind me said they were being chivalrous and letting me go first. ;)

The downhill was made up of lava rock, some of it in large sheets fixed in place, and much of it loose scree. Even though the trail pointed down, it still takes strength to ride these things fast. But I didn't care. I own the downhill. Fortunately the downhill was doubletrack, so I had plenty of lines to choose from. There is a speed you have to reach where your wheels are no longer down in the rocks, but instead start to float over the rocks. I hit that speed and then some, which is called Mach Stupid. At this speed there was no way I would be able to stop suddenly for any reason, but it didn't matter because there was a ton of visibility on the trail, we were all travelling the same direction, and no one was around me. Well, that is until I started catching and passing other riders. Some were timidly picking lines, stuck in the rocks. I came flying down with a loud "On your left!" I passed about 5 people on this long section of trail. The last one was a girl who was trying to make her way down the last few yards of trail and crashed right in front of the camera crew. If they were filming, the next scene was her sitting on the right side of the trail as I hauled down the left, cleaning the section. All of the videos of the course show people crashing all over the place on the downhill. But I had cleaned it! And I reached a maximum speed of 28.8 mph on that loose, rocky downhill.

The next section of trail was yet another uphill climb. I was so sick of climbing! The XTERRA helicopter flew overhead. "No worries folks, I'm still out here, climbing and taking my bike for a walk" I thought to myself. I started the next downhill, which was much shorter. But things got a bit weird at the bottom of the hill. On the XTERRA courses, blue arrows mark the bike course, and red arrows mark the run course. The last blue arrow I saw pointed to the right at the bottom of the hill. But when I tried to turn right there was a race crew there. One of the crew guys had just shut the gate to the Jeep road, which was the next section of the bike course. The gate was even marked with a "Mile 16" marker. What was going on?

"Which way do I go?" I asked.
"Go straight down there" the guy in the XTERRA staff shirt said.

But "straight down there" pointed me to the dirt road, which had runners on the run course coming up from the opposite direction. I was confused, but as racers we are always supposed to do what the course officials tell us.

Now, at this point in the race my brain has been baked, and I started becoming paranoid. There was one single time cutoff to worry about at this race, and it was that we had to be out of T2 by 1 PM. That was it. My head started spinning. Was there another cutoff that I wasn't aware of? How could there be? I'm one of those people that reads the Race Bible cover to cover and knows all the rules. Maybe they felt at this point in the race I had no hope of making the 1 PM cutoff? But I wasn't a straggler, and I was still out there with plenty of people! As I rode down the road, runners going in the opposite direction were looking at me strangley, because I was not on the bike course. The other riders that I had passed on the downhill had also caught up by now, so I followed them. Here we were, biking in the opposite direction on the run course. No blue arrows anywhere.

As I rode, the thoughts continued. Have I been pulled from the race? Am I even still racing? Did they divert me and everyone else off the course to hand us our DNFs and tell us to clean up our transition areas? I've been down this mental road before in 2007, when I was racing the minutes on the clock trying to get back to the transition area in 30 mph winds at Ironman Arizona, only to miss the cutoff by 6 minutes. But this time I did not care. I started to mentally come to terms and prepare if they were going to cut me from the race. I was not giving back all the clothing I purchased the day before with "2010 XTERRA World Championship Maui" emblazoned on it. I was going to keep it. And maybe this meant I wasn't going to have to run the 7 miles of the run course.

As I rode past Run Aid Station #2 with Jerry and another guy, two other bike riders came up from the opposite direction. "There are no blue arrows down there" they said. Well, duh, there hasn't been a blue arrow for awhile folks. We stopped and they rode to the aid station and asked where we should go. Other bike riders appeared and joined our group. I was in a group of about 10 people wondering where to go, so I felt a little better being in such a large group of confused people. I looked at my watch. 12:40 PM. We had exactly 20 minutes to get this figured out, get back to transition, change into our run gear, and get clocked out of T2 if we were, in fact, still in this race. One of the riders asked the volunteer at the aid station, and she radioed to the race headquarters. "This is Run Aid Station 2 and I have bike riders wondering where to go" she said. They radioed back and told us to continue up the road and turn left. Once again, always do what the race course volunteers and officials said.

We continued up the dirt road and turned left. To our right just outside of the turn an XTERRA course official guy came flying up in a golf cart. "The front of the group of bikers just came through here!" he frantically radioed back. What the heck was going on?!? We were now on the last stretch of dirt road that was the beginning of the run course. We continued, and turned onto the paved road that led back to the race site. As I made the turn there, a volunteer was quickly writing down and calling out all of our race numbers. "Great, she's writing down the DNF list" I thought. Why else would they be recording our numbers?

I followed the other riders, and we rode the final stretch on the grass golf course towards transition. The crowd of spectators was still there cheering, yelling "Great job!" but they didn't know. They didn't know that I was probably heading towards a transition area to only have my bike grabbed by an official and told I couldn't continue. I tried not to get upset. "Always keep going until you're told to stop. You don't stop racing until you see the red or checkered flag" I told myself.

I rolled up to the transition area and was pointed to the rack of bikes. No one was there to pull me from the course. Were we still racing? I ran to my spot, threw down my bike gear, got my run gear on, and headed out. Zac was on the edge of the transition area and cheering.

"I don't even know if I'm still racing" I said as I walked by.
"Just keep going. I heard there was something messed up on the course" he replied.

So I headed out of transition, with my official T2 time being clocked before 1 PM. As I ran out, a bunch of other bikers were still coming in, so I was far from last. I came to the realization that I now had to run 7 more miles to be finished. The first part of the course on pavement wasn't bad, but then we turned and headed up the dirt hill that I had just ridden down. My legs were completely shot. I tried to run, but just couldn't get the legs to go. So I decided to walk on the uphills and "run" on the downhills. I had to try to save some energy to get through the next 7 miles.

I trotted where I could, but the course climbed and climbed. It was all dirt Jeep road, until we finally made a turn onto a downhill. The downhill was not much of a road or a trail, and was covered with loose, fist-sized rocks. No matter where you stepped, your foot was landing on a loose rock. It was painful, even with trail running shoes on. I was trying not to fall and make last week's injuries worse. I had pulled on road bike gloves to protect my roadrashed palm in case I did fall.

I ate a few Sport Beans, and stopped at all of the aid stations for water. Even though they had water, I still carried two bottles on my Fuel Belt with me, so that I would always have water and I could slowly sip it. I was already sunburned, since I was in a rush to get out of T2 and didn't bother to re-apply sunscreen. There were a few clouds out that blocked some of the sun, and I think that saved me and allowed me to keep moving on the run course.

After the rocky hell, the next bit of fun was Big Beach. It's the longest beach on Maui, and we had to run it. There were a few flags on the beach, but the XTERRA officials had told us at the pre-race meeting that we were allowed to run anywhere parallel to the markers. I decided to take the path of least resistance and run on the hard-pack that forms right by the water line. The only tough part was that the beach wasn't closed for this race (why would's only the World Championships) so I was dodging boogie boarders and people running in and out of the ocean. It was bizarre. Here were a ton of people enjoying their vacation or weekend on the beach, and I was running right through the middle of them, trying to finish a tough race course. I was covered in salt, sweat, and dirt. They were slathering on suntan oil and lounging on beach blankets. Oh, and they had sodas and snacks. Snacks that were not some horribly engineered robot race food with a lukewarm water chaser. I would have hated the beach people, except once in awhile some of them would cheer. I think it was only because I had a number on. Otherwise I would have looked very similar to the crazy beach bum people that wander the beach. And probably smelled the same.

I finished the beach run and turned onto a trail. Just before the aid station I found a log and sat down and dumped 40 pounds of dirt out of my shoes. Sand is just awful, and beach sand is the worst, and I can tell you from my countless trail runs that sand in shoes just makes for bashed up toes. There was no way I was going to run 20 more minutes with shoes full of sand. I pulled my shoes back on, and hit the aid station. This aid station was awesome because they had ice, and I gladly took a cup. I popped a cube in my mouth, filled my hat and put the ice on my head, and kept going. "One more mile!" they yelled. I learned a long time ago never to trust distances claimed by aid station people.

The next section of trail was called the "Spooky Forest" which was a bunch of scraggly trees with no leaves, twisting through the trail. I had to duck under and climb over logs. At least I didn't have a ravine to lower myself down via rope like Saipan. This was cake compared to that. But the forest section wasn't very long, and I quickly found myself back on another stupid beach with more stupid sand. This sand was more coarse and black because there were huge lava rocks at the water's edge. I had to slowly climb the boulder field of black lava rock. When lava rock gets wet, it gets insanely slippery. I was glad to have my gloves on, because at some points I was climbing on all fours as the water splashed over the rocks. To my right, a golf course finally appeared. This meant I was close to the finish!

As I walked over the rocks I ate about 3 more Sport Beans. On the 4th bean my stomach turned sour, and I spit the half-chewed 4th bean out. Stomach does not want Sport Beans! I sipped some water. Ugh. I also learned at Iroman Arizona not to force down stuff that makes you nauseous, because the stomach WILL revolt and have a Going out of Business sale without your consent. I thought for sure I was going to loose it. But I was so close to the finish! So I walked and drank more water. I also REALLY wanted to take my shoes off again. The sand from the black beach had made it's way into my shoes and made my size 8.5 shoes feel like size 5. I looked at my watch. If I hurried I could get under the 6 hour mark. No time to take off the shoes.

I trotted along the trail and finally saw Zac near the little gazebo base we had taken our pictures at the day before. He was still waiting for me and snapping pictures. "Do you want your flag?" he asked. "Sure" I said. He would have no problem beating me to the finish line. I had one small wall I had to get over before the final stretch, and didn't have the energy to hop over it. I grabbed the top of the wall and slowly stepped over it like I was 80 years old. I took my Arizona flag from Zac and started jogging the last part of the course. It's funny because the trail goes behind the beach restrooms before the final 2 turns to the finisher's chute. Hey, it's the World Championships afterall. So the next time you use a restroom near a trail, for all you know it could be right by a World Championship course for some insane race.

I had to dodge a few spectators but finally made it to the finisher's chute. It was a row of flags from different countries and US states. There were still spectators cheering, so I unfolded my AZ flag and ran with it over my head up the finisher's chute. Everyone was cheering, and I crossed the finish line at 5:54:54, just under the 6 hour mark! I heard my favorite announcer gal announce my name and say "She's a Tri Girl from Tucson!" which was really cool. There were still television cameras there at the finish line (yes, even that late in the game). I think they got a shot of me with my tongue out or something. I had a flower lei draped over my neck, and was handed my official finisher's medal, which says "Survivor XTERRA World Championships." How appropriate.

All I wanted to do at the finish line was finally take my shoes off! I found an empty chair and dumped out my shoes and socks. My toes were dyed black from the lava sand and I had no clue what state my toenails were in. I talked to a few other racers around me and watched as the other racers came in. Meanwhile, Zac posted on Facebook that I had officially finished the race. I slowly walked barefoot back to the transition area, and sat down to clean up my spot. I had no energy to stand. I had stashed a small insulated lunch box in my transition bag with 2 small cartons of chocolate milk on ice. So I sat in my disheveled transition area with no shoes on and my race gear scattered everywhere, sipping my chocolate milk. I looked around and others cleaning up their spaces were sitting in the grass as well. No one had the energy to stand. As I slowly picked up my area, I talked with the other racers that I had seen out on the course. Many asked if I would be back to Maui next year or in the future, but I said I wanted to travel and do some of the other XTERRA races abroad first.

And what was the big confusion on the bike course? After the race I heard there had been a major crash on the course, so we were diverted away from the area. So it turned out I wasn't being pulled from the course or anything. They were taking our numbers down to keep track of who was being diverted and to keep an account of us, since we couldn't continue on the regular course. So no matter what, always do what the race officials tell you, even if it's confusing. After I got some food and rest, it all made much more sense. ;)

Even though the race was incredibly tough, the XTERRA World Championships were still a lot of fun to participate in. The XTERRA community is still pretty small compared to other triathlon events, and I like that. I hope they are able to keep the vibe going as things change throughout the years. This race made me want to continue to do XTERRA triathlons, and after seeing the highlights video I definitely want to do some of the European races. I'm not sure if I'll ever make it back to Maui, which is why I took this race as a "once in a lifetime opportunity" and enjoyed it while I was there.

So what is next? A BREAK. This was an entire year of training and I am mentally tired and want to get back to my willy nilly training. I'll still bike and run (and sometimes swim, heh) but I need a mental break from following a set plan. There's a lot of new stuff I want to try next year, like downhill mountain bike racing, bikepacking, and getting back into riding my bike into work once in awhile. I tend to do this in waves, with one "on" year of focused training, followed by an "off" year of doing whatever whenever. So I'm definitely looking forward to some "off" time!

Photos from the race are here in my album on Facebook.

HUGE thanks to everyone that helped over this past year:

Zac - Husband, race sherpa, photographer, laundry helper, and the one who says "I think you should do it" when I question if something is stupid/crazy, even after I said I would do it.

Coach Scott Blanchard from Pyramid Coaching - He set the plan that helped me get here, helped keep me from melting down, from overtraining, and never said I was crazy when I wanted to reach the 2 goals of Saipan and the World Championships. A good coach is such a huge help!

Mom & Dad - For endless support and cheering. They are huge fans of the blog. ;)

Training Partners - For everyone that helped in my year of swimming, biking, and running to get here. My friends from the Tucson Tri Girls allowed me to tag along on bike rides. And Ryan "The Boulder" for our weekly runs where he would run with me no matter how crazy the workout was, including hill repeats on A Mountain or running Saguaro East in the dark.

Readers of The Blog - Friends from Beginner,, friends & family members, and everyone else that puts up with waiting for me to make an update or write a race report. Thanks! :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back from rehab

The role of Dr. Drew shall be played by Coach Scott in this blog post.

I had about 2 weeks off from training, and normally when one needs to take time off you taper down. But, as mentioned in the previous blog post, everything quickly came to a halt. "We had to take drastic measures" Coach Scott says. So let me tell you about my little trip through training rehab.

The reason I call it "rehab" is because everyone that trains is a meth head. The body gets used to inputs (training, meth, whatever) and when you suddenly stop, the body isn't too happy. The first few days I felt like crap and had no energy, despite doing nothing related to training. My sleep was all jacked up and I was very jittery and anxious. About half way through the first week I came down with a migraine headache, most likely from the withdrawl of not training. How whacked out is this?!? I just wanted to sit around and relax and enjoy my time off, but the body was having none of that.

The following week had a few 20 minute easy workouts. The first run I tried felt like agony. I couldn't even gut out 20 minutes of running. Obviously not enough time off. So the rest of the week I continued to rest from anything swim, bike, run related. Instead I diverted my energy to working on the house. That weekend I was out of town, and found there's nothing like travel to make you feel like a slug. Lots of sitting around on planes and in airports, and no restrictions on eating. Cold Stone ice cream at 12 AM? Let's go! (Yes, this really did happen).

I got back home Sunday night, and was ready to go. In the airport I had e-mailed Coach Scott to please give me a workout on Monday, which is normally my rest day. I was requesting a workout on my rest day! That morning I headed out for a run, which was one of the best runs ever. No worries about heart rate or time, just going out and running. My trip was to New York City, and after that I really appreciated to be able to leave directly from my front door and run and be surrounded by the quiet desert.

My enthusiasm towards training came back down to regular levels later that week, and I'm pretty much back to the routine of normal training. The goal is to get through the race in Maui, and then I'll take time off from the structured training routine for more of a mental break. I'm not scheduling any races between now and Oct 24th (so far) because mentally I'm just not there and in the racing mood. Too much over the summer, so I'm still recovering from that.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Training ALL STOP

Nothing is broken, and I'm not injured. But I will be taking a break from training over the next 10 days or so.

What has happened is a massive amount of cumulative fatigue. At first I thought I was burned out from racing, so I just stopped signing up for races, and trudged my way through the races that I had already paid for (you'll notice a lack of race reports over the past couple of months because of this). This past week is when everything completely fell apart.

On Friday last week, I ran 2.5 miles in to Saguaro East with Ryan, my running partner, and then we turned around and ran back out. So we got the worst of the hills twice. Then on Saturday I did the Lemmon Squeezy ride up to Palisades and was hurting. At first I thought it was the previous day's run. All morning I had comments like "What's wrong with you?" "I never see you on this ride and you were right in front of me the entire time" "I never keep up with you except today". Ugh. Let me tell you that when you are mentally beating up yourself over your performance, it is 10X worse when it comes from 5 different people passing you. I felt like I should crawl into a hole and die instead. Then on Sunday Zac and I went up to Sunrise to ride the downhill trails, and I managed 2 very slow runs down. It was all I could manage to get down the mountain. I took a nap in my Jeep in the parking lot, then we headed home when the mountain closed and Zac had finished his 8 runs down the mountain.

This is when things got really bad. Monday was my rest day, so nothing out of the ordinary there. Tuesday I was insanely tired and never did my planned ride. Wednesday I met Ryan for our morning run, where I was supposed to do 5 speed intervals of 2-3 min each. I manged two of them. The first made me think "There's no way I can do five of these." On the second, I had a horrible pain in my chest (a cramp), I couldn't control my breathing, and my heartrate was insanely high. I told Ryan I wasn't feeling well, and too many red flags had been thrown, so I was just going to run slower and calm down. He was a bit concerned, thinking he was going to have to give me a piggy back ride to get back to the car. But we made it back, and I slowly gutted out the core workout for the week in the gym. Thursday my alarm went off at 5 AM for my ride, and the body said "Oh hell no this is NOT happening." So I went back to bed for another 1.5 hours, but still felt like crap when I got up.

I was a mess and falling apart. So that morning I e-mailed Coach Scott, pouring out my entire mess of a week, and my mental freak out. How was I going to survive the next several weeks of training? If I don't train, I'm not going to survive the XTERRA Worlds race at Maui. If I don't train, I'm going to end up clinging to a kayak in the ocean, walking my bike on every uphill, and walking the entire run course. Was I going to be just a spectator instead of a participant? I was spiraling out of control. I could no longer mentally push through the fatigue. My brain was cashing in the chips on this season and there was no way the body was going to go anywhere. I titled my e-mail "Falling apart this week."

The response I got just about brought me to tears. The first line from Scott was "I know exactly what to do. I have seen this a thousand times in the last 20 years of endurance sports." I was then told I needed a break immediately, and needed to stop everything right now. No swimming, biking, or running, and only walking allowed. I am, quite literally, burnt and trashed. I had to get complete rest and bring the systems back to normal. He said there is overreaching and overtraining, and we are at the overreaching stage but borderline overtrained, and have to get a handle on it right now. But, he said it is not bad and it is part of the training cycle. It's hard to catch ahead of time but we are in a good spot right now.

So first up is no training at all over the weekend. I'm supposed to sleep insane amounts and eat a ton of carbs and everything in sight. No holds barred. Given my fried mental state this is the best plan EVER! I can handle this. Scott has jumped into action, piecing my season back together with the enthusiasm of a cheerleader. The only rule is, I have to follow the instructions. I can't be out training when he says rest or else I'll make it worse. Right now he knows we can get me back online for Maui and salvage the season, but only if I follow the instructions. If you are stuck in a hole and someone throws you a rope, you don't start cutting at the rope. The final words from Scott were, "I'm all over it." This is exactly why having a coach is so valuable. Had I been on my own I'd still be out there trying to train through the fatigue and pain, which would only make everything worse. You get a coach's brains and experience, which keep you grounded when stuff like this happens. Sometimes you can't self-diagnose what is going on.

Needless to say, I won't be able to do the final Easy Peasy Lemmon Squeezy Ride. At first I thought I could if I went really slow, but the more I rest the worse I feel. This ride is supposed to be fun, and I don't want to be a liability to anyone out there. So instead I will be a mobile cheer station and SAG (support and gear) wagon, hauling water for the riders on what will be a very warm day. I'm still going to party at The Cookie Cabin at the end, and since I'm under orders to eat a ton of food you'd better believe I'll be partaking of the pizza and cookies there.

I had heard of overtraining, but not overreaching. I had to Google these terms together to find out what the difference was. This is a whole new type of fatigue I'm feeling. I've noticed in endurance sports there are many different kinds of fatigue. There's the "lack of sleep" fatigue with the hazy headache and all. There's the "I ran too many hills yesterday" fatigue. There's the "Ironman fatigue" that lasts for weeks and weeks. At first you feel like you've been hit by a truck, but weeks later when you try to train you feel this deep muscle fatigue lingering. But this is a brand new one. Right now, the more I rest the worse I feel. I have no energy for doing basic tasks. And when I try to rest I have this jittery feeling, kind of like being amped up on too much caffeine. Yet I am dead tired. And my legs are still sore from Wednesday's run, which is not normal.

No one talks about this stuff on training message boards. Everyone is busy flexing their muscles and showing off what insane training workouts they did over the weekend and proving how awesome they are. Maybe most feel that if they admit they are fatigued, then it's a sign of weakness. Well, I'm here to admit it, because if you go through it you are a normal human.

Anyways, thanks to everyone that has sent me messages and e-mailed their best wishes. I didn't want anyone to think I had seriously injured myself or had snapped my body in half riding my mountain bike (although that would be a cooler story, but would require longer recovery). Over the next 10 days or so, look for me behind a plate of food or under the covers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Green Mountain trail run

This summer is heavy on the Lemmon, with the Easy Peasy Lemmon Squeezy rides on Saturdays for 6 weeks in a row. I usually need to get some sleep after a week of training, so not getting up at 4:30 AM on Sunday means heading to higher elevation for later morning trail runs. On Sunday, I was able to convice Zac to come with me for a trail run on Mt. Lemmon. We had ridden to Windy Point the day before as part of the EPLS ride, so the legs were definitely tired. I promised him it would be an easy pace, and probably more hiking than anything.

The original plan was to park at the San Pedro Vista (the destination for next week's EPLS ride), and run the Brush Corral trail. However, as we drove up the mountain, we noticed dark clouds overhead. We got to Rose Canyon and it was sprinkling. By the time we got to the San Pedro Vista, it was pouring. We looked around and there was no sunlight in sight. I really didn't want to get drenched for an hour, so we turned around and headed back down the mountain. We decided to try the lower Green Mountain trail. It's nice that in just a few miles on Mt. Lemmon you can have completely different weather. At the Green Mountain parking lot, it was just cloudy and still cool enough for a run.

Normally mountain bikers travel this trail in the opposite direction to make it mostly downhill. We would be starting at the bottom, so for us it would be a climb up and then a run back down. The weather was great, and we just had a light sprinkle during the middle part of the run. It was sunny lower on the mountain, so the clouds overhead in this area were perfect. The trail is quite technical in spots as you climb up, with a ton of undercut water bars and granite rocks. For us it was mostly a hike, with a few sections of running thrown in when the trail flattened out. We turned around at the 1.5 mile mark and headed back down, which was a heck of a lot easier. But it was a nice break from running the road and the desert trails at the lower elevations.

I've perfected taking pictures while running and riding. :)
Zac and I trying not to fall of the rock.

The "green" portion of Green Mountain. This part we could actually run.

Hard to believe this is just a few miles from Tucson.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


There are many internet articles about singlespeeding. They go into how deep it is, how rich of a feeling you get experiencing the ride, how simple it is and in that simplicity you can unravel the complexity of life, etc. I don't know how singlespeeding can stop a war, but these folks feel it can. It can also solve world hunger. And do your taxes.

Personally, this is not how I arrived at the door of the singlespeed world. My hardtail mountain bike has been getting less action lately. This was my first real mountian bike, and it's about 10 years old. I keep it around as a back-up bike, and to let friends borrow to see if they like mountian biking. But as for me, I just wasn't riding it as much. The drivetrain and other components needed to be replaced. I just couldn't see spending money when I wasn't riding it that much. Then I got the idea...turn it into a singlespeed! I don't have a singlespeed, I had never tried it, but what the heck. The hardtail would be perfect for it. So for a whopping $35 investment in parts, it was converted over.

I took the bike out for it's first ride as a SS last night. It's nice to have the old parts that were giving it problems removed. No more gummy shifters. No more tweaked and worn out derailleur. I need to put a different seat on it since the old one is worn out and uncomfortable, but other than that it's working pretty well. I just tooled around the neighborhood and river path, so I'd like to take it out to Fantasy Island to see what it's like on a real trail system. I think it will give me a fresh look at Fantasy Island too. I've done so many miles out there that it became boring after awhile. But now I have something new to try!

I'll let you know when I've solved world hunger.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Picacho Peak Time Trial

One thing I've noticed in the difference between training with a coach and training on your own is that a coach comes up with training ideas that you'd never try on your own, because normally you think those ideas are crazy. Like running the Saguaro East loop, for example. I feel the loop should always be done on a bike, but there it was on the the loop. So I ran the loop, and survived despite wanting to steal people's bikes as they rode by. The downhills are way more fun on a bike.

So I pulled up my training plan for the week to see "Picacho Peak TT? Let me know if you want to do this" on my plan for Sunday the 20th of June. A time trial? Me? On the ROAD?!? Wait a sec how is this supposed to help for XTERRA training? "Good baseline for fitness." Well, I had just picked up that aerohelmet at Deuces Wild. I should probably put the thing to use. Besides, other Tri Girls had done the previous race, so maybe I'd see some of them there. *sigh* Fine. I'll do it. If it involves a bike, I'll try it at least once.

I got up crazy early on race morning and drove to California. Well, actually Arizona City which may as well be in California when you're coming from NE Tucson. Arizona City, by the way, is just south of the Casa Grande outlets for those wondering. Yes, I had to look it up on the map.

I arrived at the race, wondering how this was going to go down. Each aspect of cycling has it's own culture. The downhill mountain bikers usually have one-word sentences involving a lot of "Dude", "Whoa!", and "Awesome!" and they are all about the beer and sometimes the "herbal supplements." They do a run on their bikes and then it's all about the partying. Sometimes the partying hinders the riding. Then there's the cross country mountain bikers, also very concerned about beer and parties and, most importantly, schwag. Free socks? They're in. Roadies I can't comment on as I've never done one of their races. But the triathlon crowd I know a lot about. Most think they are the uptight ones. They are all about body mass, body image, complex carbohydrates, peeing on the bike, and where to put the M-dot tattoo. On the XTERRA side of triathlon I can say the mountain bike influence takes over and they are much more laid back. But the TT crowd made triathletes look like the downhill crowd.

As I drove through the parking lot looking for a parking space, I began to take it all in. People were setting up their own little areas by their cars. They pulled out EZ ups, trainers or rollers, and starting riding nowhere. For 40-60 minutes they rode nowhere in a parking lot in Arizona City. My trainer was at home, where it belonged because it was no longer winter and dark out. I parked my car, signed up for the race, paid my $30, and wandered around. I actually ran into people that I knew from work or, oddly enough, triathlon message boards. I said hello and that it was my first race, but holding a conversation was tough. Everyone was very focused on getting ready for the race and riding nowhere, so I felt like I shouldn't bother them and cut the conversation short. Except for Andy, who I know from the aforementioned triathlon message board, and he was willing to chat a bit. I overheard others in the parking lot discussing the wind. Apparently the wind was a big factor. I looked and the trees in the parking lot were dead still. I went back to the car and fiddled with my bike and was relieved when the TriSports rig pulled up and Shari hopped out. Oh thank goodness! Someone to talk to!!! Otherwise I would have spent 30 minutes awkwardly fiddling with my bike for no reason.

I have no idea how they determined the order riders were going in, but I was at the back of the 40K group. We had the choice of 20K or 40K, but I didn't drive all the way to the other side of the world for 20K. I tooled around up and down the road in the opposite direction from the race course, then lined up. The people around me were dressed in their outfits, which are meant to maximize aerodynamics. Everyone was in a onesie, because you know, the seam between your shorts and jersey would be too much drag. Everything was skin tight. Sperm head aero helmets were everywhere. And people were wearing booties, but not to keep their feet warm. Nope, the velcro on your shoes could be too much drag, so you have to put an aerodynamic bootie over it. I was lucky to be wearing my TTG cycling jersey, only because Joyce had warned that it's against the rules to be in a sleeveless jersey as her husband found out. I had also stayed up late the night before doing important pre-race prep of putting pirate girl stickers all over my new aerohelmet. If you're going to look goofy in a sperm head helmet, you may as well rock it with some awesome stickers.

I rolled up to the starting line where there were 2 officials. One guy was there to count down and wave his hand in front of you "5...4...3...2...1" and then you go. Reminds me of Wayne's World..."you didn't say 2 or 1." And the other guy awkwardly holds the back of your bike so that you can be clipped in and ready to roll when the finger guy drops the "1" finger. I say awkwardly, because it's weird to have someone hold your bike from behind when you're over the age of 5. I have pretty good bike handling skills and can roll really slow and trackstand for short periods of time (not the minutes like Zac can) and not fall over. But this guy grabbed my bike and it had a slight tilt to the right, so that I was leaning to the right. I couldn't wait for the hand to drop just so I could start rolling. The finger guy did his thing and I was off.

What I can say is that the next hour and some odd minutes were the most boring of my life. The 5 or so people that were behind me passed me in the first 5 minutes, so I was alone. You go in 30 second intervals, so for someone slower like me, you don't really see anyone. I saw a few people going the other direction and finishing up their race. Other than that, it's a lot of staring at the white line. I had also not ridden my tri bike in awhile, or been in the aerobars, so the seating position wasn't the most comfortable. I had the roughness of the road to keep me entertained, dodging potholes and rough spots. There were wildflowers still in bloom which was nice. And all the cars that passed me were nice and left lots of room. I reached the turnaround where the officials were, then headed back. There was a slight tailwind pushing me back, but nothing like the winds I've had on other bike rides. This was windy??? Oh well. I was the last person out there, so it was hard to stay motivated and keep pushing. I sat up for a bit, just to take the painful pressure off. I passed the 5K sign, so I got back in the aerobars so that I looked like I knew what I was doing and was part of the crowd for the group waiting around at the finish. But wait, where was the finish? I rolled past a guy in a gardening hat and past where the start tent had been, which was now taken down. "Oh well, there's the entrance to the parking lot, I guess I'm done" I thought to myself.

The place was a ghost town. Only Shari was there at the finish waiting for me, just to make sure I was ok. I appreciated it, since I had come up there alone. Always nice to know someone is looking out for you at a race. Everyone had packed up and gone home after their run was over. No party, no schwag, no beer, NO SNACKS. That's right. There were no snacks at the end. How can there be an athletic event with no snacks at the end? Not only that, but no water either. Humph. What did my $30 cover? Surely some of that could go to some bagels and orange slices. Heck, the weekly aquathlons in the park have a better spread.

So, with all of that, I could hardly call the event "fun." It just isn't my bag. I like the social aspect of races. Heck, half the time that's where I see some people the most. And staring at a white line for over an hour is mind numbing. Kind of like riding the trainer.

My stickered helmet:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

XTERRA Deuces Wild

I love to do this race every year, and this year was no exception. Normally XTERRA Deuces Wild is followed a week later by XTERRA Four Corners. But this year the scheduling didn't work out and they fell on the same weekend, with 4 Corners on Saturday and Deuces on Sunday. I wasn't going to blow my race at Deuces by racing on tired legs, and I know how long the drive between Show Low and Farmington is, and I wasn't going to miss out on the Deuces raffle. Deuces is a superior course, and all the Tri Girls were going to be there, so 4 Corners was getting cut from my schedule this year.

Zac and I left on Saturday morning to get to the race with enough time to see the TTGs finishing up the road triathlons. That evening we went to the raffle, where I won a set of LG tri shoes, and Liane won an aerohelmet. We did some trading and switched prizes, and it worked out well. Sunday morning we arrived early and got set up in transition. Zac would once again be doing the relay with Shari, with her swimming, him doing the mountain bike, and her doing the trail run. The water wasn't as cold as last year, which was great.

I had all of my wisdom teeth pulled 2 weeks before this race, so my training leading up to it wasn't the greatest. I decided to take all the pressure off and just go out there and do the race and not worry about it. I got in the water, and decided to go out easy on the swim. This race I actually swam really straight with no navigation issues. I started catching and passing the guys that had a 4 minute head start on us, and only had a few issues getting around some of them that liked to swim in S patterns. I felt really good in the water, which is why when I stood up on the boat ramp I was shocked to see a swim time of 21 minutes. I had done the swim last year in 17 minutes, and my first year racing in 22 minutes. No way had I lost that much time. After the race I checked the results and lots of times for people that I know are fast swimmers were much longer, so I decided the course had to be long.

T1 went well, then it was time for my favorite part of the day, the mountain bike. I crushed the downhills and then was disappointed to see the gate to the forest was shut. Last year a rail in the fence was knocked down so that we could hop over. This year I had to lift the bike over the fence, then climb over. Oh well, this happens all the time on other trails so it wasn't too big of a deal. Then it was time for the climb and the usual log crossings. Except this year there had been a lot of trail erosion. The log that we normally climb over had a huge gap between the underside of the log and the trail. I decided to lay the bike down, crawl under the log, and drag my bike under like a dead body.

After that it was the usual climb up the trail, and this year I made it much further up the hill than previous years. The trail was in great shape. The massive downhill followed, which was a blast, then back through the forest and over the fence before heading back to transition. On the road I saw that I was getting close to the 1:40 mark for my bike split, and wanted to have my split be under that. So I hammered on the road up the hill to transition, passing a couple of guys giving me strange looks like "why the heck is this crazy chick hammering into transition???" and hopped off the bike with an official bike split of 1:39:42. Woohoo! Small victories.

It was hot by the time I hit the run course, but I did my best to run as much as possible. My pace was definitely slower than last year, but it was also 20 degrees warmer. I didn't want to do anything stupid out there, so I made sure I was always comfortable. The lake crossing wasn't too high this year, but it was so hot that I splashed through it to get wet. Then this year there was a "shortcut" option, where we could cut across the swamp and back into the lake before heading up the boat ramp. Heck yeah I'm doing that! I made it as far as I could in the mud and then splashed down and started swimming. My trail shoes filled with water and sank like a rock so my form wasn't exactly the best. Zac, Nate, and the TTGs were on the shore cheering, and I was happy to get out because I had less than a mile to go. Some chick came by pushing hard, but there was no way I was going to follow. I just kept going along at my happy pace. I finished in 3:13, which is only 1 minute slower than last year. The chick that blazed by me was in a chair and the medics were looking at here. There were a bunch of people looking pretty bad in the shade at the finish, but I felt great and was glad I wasn't one of them.

I got my awesome finish line popsicle, then we headed over to the lunch area and met up with the other TTGs. I slowly ate some watermelon while I waited for the digestive system to reboot and come back online. It was awhile before I could nibble at the Mexican food provided at the lunch. We waited for awards, and Zac & Shari took 1st place in the relay and got cool trophies! Zac and I changed, got some more food, and headed back to Tucson. Overall an awesome weekend!

Zac rockin' the Elvis jersey for the race:

Start of the women's wave of the swim:

Done with the bike:

Heading into the water on the trail swim:


Swimming the trail swim:

Emerging on the other side:

The finish!

Shari & Zac with their cool trophies:

Monday, May 17, 2010

XTERRA King of the Hill

I was scheduled to be in Boston for a week of training May 10 – May 14. Before the trip I checked the national XTERRA race schedule, and noticed XTERRA King of the Hill was scheduled for May 16 in New Jersey. Google Maps showed a 5 hour drive between Boston and the race site in Lebanon, NJ. Not too bad. So I set to work figuring out the logistics of getting to the race with all of my gear.

My first preference was to rent a mountain bike. I searched Google. I posted on the regional forums of Beginner Triathlete and Mountain Bike Review. I called bike shops that were sponsors of the race. I e-mailed the race director and people in AZ that I knew were from NJ. The result: mountain bikes are not for rent in NJ. Well, I should clarify. Mountain bikes that would hold up to an XTERRA bike course were not for rent. This is where I met my first division between west coast mountain biking and east coast. I’ve rented mountain bikes in the west with no issues, and no one even batting an eye at the thought. But on the east coast I got a lot of “Um, no one rents mountain bikes. This isn’t really a tourist area for mountain bikers.” If you want a beach cruiser for rolling along the Jersey Shore, no problem. But a bike for XTERRA racing…no dice.

Ok, on to Plan B, which was to disassemble my Blur and pack it in its flight box and fly it with me. The problem with this are the airline fees. Some think UPS or FedEx would be cheaper. And years ago they were. In 2003 I shipped my Bullit in a larger hard case from Tucson to Downieville, CA for $45 with insurance. Now it costs $150 to ship a bike via UPS or FedEx. I decided on Southwest, because a bike flies for $50, and there are no fees for the other checked bag. Also in my logistical planning was where to fly into. Into and out of different airports would mean I would get stuck with a hefty fee from the rental car place. So I decided on the halfway point and to fly into Hartford, CT.

I spent several hours cleaning the bike before packing it because it still had dirt and residue from Saipan on it. Then I removed both pedals, wheels, disc brakes, brake calipers, real derailleur, and handlebars. What follows next is padding the bike so that it would survive in the box. I used a lot of old race T-shirts to wrap parts, and foam insulation tubing for around the bike frame. My floor pump, Camelbak, and bike and trail running shoes all went in the box with the bike as additional padding and stuffing to keep the frame from moving around.

Mountain bike ready to fly.

The entire bike box was 67 lbs, along with 47 lbs of a roll-on luggage bag with all of my race gear and clothes for 10 days. Pulling those two items around the airport alone can be a pain, but I learned you just have to go slow. People in airports are also very curious about a girl toting around a huge, plastic trapezoid. In Hartford I got about five questions of what was in my box. I was too worn out and tired to make up something cool, but then again an entire mountain bike in a box that small is pretty impressive. It also makes everyone think you are some big wig bike racer. Who else would haul all that stuff around an airport?

The next hinge in my logistical plan was the rental car. I absolutely had to get an SUV or something of the like. I had Emerald Isle service through work, which meant I would be eyeing an HHR, Dodge Nitro, or worst-case a PT Cruiser. When the shuttle dropped me off there was a lone, red HHR left in the isle. Score! I folded down the rear seats and loaded the bike box on its side, followed by my luggage. It all fit, no problem.

I drove to Boston, and the next day put my bike together. I labeled all of my foam pieces so that disassembly and packing after the race would be much easier. During the week I rode a local trail that was only 3 miles from my hotel (see the Merrimack River Trail post below). I was stuck in a classroom from 8 AM to 5 PM every day, but it was awesome to have my bike with me and hit the trail before or after class. I took advantage of the extended daylight the east coast has and rode the trail any time I could.

On Friday our class ended early, so I loaded the bike box, luggage, and my assembled bike in the HHR and drove the 5 hours down to New Jersey. The drive wasn’t bad, and the next day I hit the bike course for a pre-ride to see what I would be in for the next day. While out on the course I ran into a guy named Kenny, who was stapling XTERRA arrows to trees. He worked for Green Brook Racing (the race company putting on the XTERRA) so I chatted with him for a bit and asked about the course. After my pre-ride, he and the race director, Joe, and the rest of the crew headed to lunch and invited me along. A very friendly bunch and a great group of folks!

The next morning I didn’t have to be up until 6:30 AM. The race didn’t start until 10AM! This was awesome! Joe, the race director said that it was usually cold and overcast in the mornings and beautiful by that time of day, so they found they got more competitors when they pushed back the race time. I got to transition early, set up my bike and gear, and got my numbers at registration.

Transition area in The Garden State.

I got a great spot in transition.

We had a pre-race meeting at 9:30 AM, and then it was time to get in the water for a warm-up. The race was held at the Round Valley Recreation Area, where there’s a huge lake. But we weren’t swimming in the main lake, and instead were swimming in a smaller lake over a spillway. It was kind of nice because there was a nice beach, no boats, and it was small for easy sighting. I got in the water, which was 66 degrees, and did a quick swim before getting out and heading to the start up the beach. This XTERRA started with a beach run (rather than the run being in the middle of two swim laps), then two laps of an out & back along a line of buoys. The beach run took me 1.5 minutes before I jumped in the water. There were 126 racers in the XTERRA and only 20 women, so when I got in the water I was already at the back of the pack. I tried to calm down on the first lap since the heart rate had shot up on the run. I turned at the buoy and found the major disadvantage to an out & back swim course. People like to follow the buoys, which means a higher probability of having a head-on collision with someone coming from the other direction. I moved over a bit and kept sighting every 4 strokes so that I wouldn’t crash into anyone. I got out and ran around the marker pole on the beach, and jumped in for the second swim lap. With everyone getting out and in the lake in the same area, the mud had churned up so it was hard to see until I got to deeper water. I started pulling hard on the second lap, and came out of the water in 15:50. Not too bad for an 880 yard swim including a beach run.

Super easy swim course.

I got to my transition area and looked behind me. Some of the other girls that I knew were in my age group were behind me, and I wanted to beat them out of transition. I got the wetsuit off, threw on the bike gear, and ran my bike up the hill out of transition. This being XTERRA, there were cement stairs heading down the hill, and we had to ride the stairs to get out on the bike course. It was so much fun! I love riding stairs! Many elected to walk their bikes, or take a small dirt trail around the outside. We had a small stretch of pavement before the trails began, so I got my cycling gloves on in this area. Then we hit the trails and immediately began to climb on a fire road. The climb wasn’t too bad because there was an awesome and fast downhill right after. The guys that passed me on the climb were now getting passed by me as I flew down the hill. I swear I’m going to give up this triathlon thing and race Super D.

The start of the bike and run courses.

The first climb on the bike course.

View of the lake from the top of the first climb.

It was important to get out in front of as many riders as possible, because we had a switchback section coming up on singletrack, and there wouldn’t be much room to pass. I entered into the top of the switchback section with a guy right on my tail, and I wanted to ditch him because I knew he was already looking to pass and was probably thinking I was going to be slow in this section. The trail headed down and I pushed the bike around under me while standing to limit braking and hold as much speed as possible. I caught another rider, but he hopped off on a slight incline and I was able to ease by and start the next section. The switchbacks weren’t too tight but still required some control. There were also a ton of tree roots that formed drop-offs in the middle of the trail. I grabbed the big ring to keep my chain from bouncing around and snaked my way down the switchback hill, catching air off of the roots. I was now at the speed where you “float” over objects in the trail. The guy behind me was nowhere to be seen. I was annihilating this section! Towards the end I caught up to a train of slower riders, but thankfully the two front guys dismounted and moved off to the side so I could get by. The trail popped out onto an open, grassy field, and then started up a gravel road. The very beginning involved another set of switchbacks on the climb, and riders all around me were getting off their bikes. I got into the inner ring and set to work spinning up the hill in a fast cadence, passing those that were walking.

The open, grassy field after the switchback section.

Riding through the trees.

A tunnel of trees.

The fire road was the easy part of the climb. It was steep but the gravel made for good traction. The fire road ended and we split off onto another singletrack section, which was the major technical climb. I was in the granny gear now, but I was still spinning at a high cadence and climbing on the bike. I wanted to stay on the bike as much as possible. Riders were dismounting all around me, but I moved off to the side around them and kept going. I made it to a rooted section of trail before finally having to get off the bike and hike. But once I was through the roots I was back on and climbing. The trail was in the shaded forest now, but the shade wasn’t helping much. The humidity was super high, and combined with my high heart rate I was completely drenched.

I climbed and climbed, pushing as hard as I could to stay with the group of riders I was in and staying on the lead lap. The course would double-back on itself, and I wanted to be done with the out & back before the leaders came through. Then, it happened. As I shifted gears on the climb, my legs suddenly spun with no resistance, but my back wheel was making an awful noise. I looked down to see the chain on the inside of the inner ring. I figured I had just dropped a chain on the climb, and hopped off and grabbed it to slide it back over the inner ring. The chain whipped around, revealing two open ends. I had broken a chain in the middle of my race!
I grabbed my bike and laid it on the ground off the trail. First things first, get the Camelbak off the back to get water weight off the body. I then assessed the mess in front of me. The chain was broken and wrapped in a mess in the rear cog. I grabbed the chain and set to work on unraveling the mess. My hands were shaking like mad and sweat was dripping off the front of my helmet. Going from race mode and Zone 5 heart rate to 0 in 2 seconds causes the body to do strange things. But I HAD to get this fixed! I was at the worst point in the trail. I was 3.5 miles in, so to hike out would be forever and would mean DNFing. I did NOT come all this way to DNF! But I couldn’t break the chain further and had to be careful. It was like diffusing a bomb. I carefully un-wedged it from the rear cog, then got it routed correctly through the rear derailleur.

I reached into my Camelbak and pulled out my powerlink. I had been carrying this powerlink with me ever since I started XTERRA racing, 6 years ago. An entire link had broken, and the pin was long gone somewhere on the trail, so at least I didn’t have to use my chain break tool to push a pin out. I tore open the package, and one half of the link went flying onto the forest floor. GAH!!! I slowly dug through the leaves and rocks and finally found the tiny gold link. As I worked, the entire world passed me by. People would ask “Need any help?” and I said “No, I broke a chain.” Most would quietly say “oh” and keep riding because they couldn’t help. One guy that rode by responded “Did it fall off or is it really broken?” THAT comment sent me into a fury. WTF!!! Here I am working on my bike with two halves of chain in my hands trying to link them together and I have some IDIOT asking if it “just fell off?!?!” Like I couldn’t tell the difference between a chain that had broken and one that had fallen off?!? I mentally pushed him off his bike and gave him a Shimano heel to the nads.

I put the pin ends of the powerlink through the open ends, then spent some time connecting the eyelets together. This is normally an easy operation any other time, but in the middle of a race with adrenaline spiking and hands shaking it becomes tough. Finally there was an audible snap as the link joined. I stood the bike up and shifted a few times to make sure it was working, then grabbed my Camelbak and got back in the line of bikers. I was now back with the stragglers. You do all this training to specifically NOT be a straggler and then one mechanical issue sends you back there. Many were walking, so I pedaled hard, trying to make up any time I could. I had lost about 10 minutes dealing with my chain, so there was no way to catch back up to the group I had been racing with. Thankfully there was a downhill, so I shifted into the big ring. Each shift made me cringe, wondering if the chain would snap in a different spot. But I had to keep going. I was now in the “irresponsibly fast” zone on the downhills but I didn’t care. I was dancing over the rocks and tree roots, and then hit the rock garden. Two guys were in the middle of the garden and going much slower. I grabbed the left line and said “on your left” and made it past. I was now free to pick up momentum again and make it through the garden. Then there was a hard left turn and we were on the campground road.

The campground road is another gravel fire road about 2 miles long. Here I was passing other stragglers with mechanical issues. One guy couldn’t change his flat, but I couldn’t stop because I had already lost a ton of time dealing with my chain. Another guy that was in front of me stopped to help him. Another guy was walking his bike out with a tube draped over his handlebars. He had gotten 2 flats, and walking a bike means he obviously didn’t carry any patches with him. He had about 3 miles of walking to do at that rate. I climbed up onto another singletrack section that joined back up with the out & back of the course. I was finally headed back to transition. I hoped my bike would hold together long enough for me to get back there. On my way down I passed the course sweeper heading up the hill, and he said I had a mile of downhill. I took advantage of this and once again entered the crazy fast zone to make up as much time as I could.

Flowers alongside the singletrack.

I crossed the open green field again, and started climbing the switchback section that we had come down earlier. It was much tougher going up than down, but I climbed what I could. I was demoralized at this point, just trying to salvage what I could of my race. But it was really hard to push with the same vigor that I had before the chain broke. I got back out on the last fire road, and started the last downhill on the fire road. I could see the lake at this point, and only had about a mile and a half to go. The next section I dreaded. It was a climb back up the fire road, but at this point the bike and run courses would intersect and I could see all the runners finishing up their races. It was horrible to see people I had been racing against out on the run course while I was still on the bike course. I made the turn onto the pavement, and had a fast downhill all the way back to transition. I got to transition and people were already done with their races and packing up. I racked my bike, threw on the running gear, and was out of there in 45 seconds.

Toboggan Hill

The run starts on the same pavement as the bike course and leads to the same fire road. But runners get to make a right turn and run up “Toboggan Hill,” which is where the race gets the name of “King of the Hill.” Toboggan Hill is covered in grass, and is huge. I resorted to walking like all the other racers around me, due to the insane slope. Once at the top there’s hardly any rest because you get to run down the back side, turn around, and then run up the backside before being able to run down. The views from the top are fantastic though, and I tried to take them in to try to bring some sort of positive light to my race. The run down Toboggan Hill was pretty tough, just because of all the pounding your legs take on the steep slope. I was happy to get to the bottom, then continue on up the fire road. The last part of the run involved the same fast downhill on pavement as the bike course, then an extra section of trail looping around the lake. I ran past a playground, and the kids on the playground cheered and yelled “Girl power!” as I ran by. It was pretty funny. I got onto the beach and finished up the last bit of the trail run, crossing the line in 2:36:58. Had I not had the chain to deal with it would have been under the 2:30 mark.

The Finish Line!

I picked up my transition area as they did the obligatory XTERRA pushup contest. I decided to hang around for the awards, just to see if results would get posted. I was absolutely shocked when they called my name for 1st place in W30-34! I waited afterwards and talked to Kenny (the guy I went to lunch with the day before), who was also doing the timing for the race. I wanted to be sure of the results. We went back to the timing shack and he pulled up the results. Sure enough, the others behind me had longer times. I was given a cool bobblehead doll as an award. So as they say, don’t ever give up! You might just be in first place. ;)

Bobblehead Trophy